With the project season behind us, winter is on its way! And although we can’t build a trail in the snow, there are still many ways to practice outdoor stewardship in the off-season. So while you plan your trips to the slopes and shopping malls, please keep these tips in mind:
On the Trail
Whether you’re hiking, snowmobiling, snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing, snow provides great protection for delicate trails! But it’s not foolproof:
- Research the area you plan to visit beforehand to make sure your preferred recreation is permitted.
- If snowmobiling, avoid areas where the snow is too low to cover vegetation. Otherwise, you are sure to damage the soil beneath your tracks.
- If it poops, you scoop! The snow isn’t hiding anything. Whether it’s yours or your dog’s, waste introduces foreign substances to the environment and contaminates snow melt and waterways. Plus, nobody wants that surprise in a snowball…
- Carpool to the mountains or explore public transit options, like the Winter Park Express from downtown Denver. Not only will you reduce emissions, but you’ll avoid infamous I-70 traffic!
- Sleeping in the snow? Return your campsite to its natural state by destroying any snow walls, shelters or other structures you may have built.
- If you find yourself in need of gear, save money and resources by looking into options for renting it; purchasing it secondhand; or repairing what you already own!
Out & About
Holiday shopping can be stressful, but going green in your gift-giving doesn’t have to be. Whether shopping for a stewardship scrooge or the most eco-conscious person you know, use these tips as a starting point:
- Be smart about online shopping. It’s convenient, but it can have its downsides: items might ship from the other side of the world, wrapped in layers of non-recyclable plastic and Styrofoam. Try to look for products made closer-to-home and combine packages when possible.
- Don’t believe the myths – your car does not need to idle before driving. It was true when cars had carburetors, but unless your vehicle is from the 70s, there’s no need to use this outdated technique. Save money, time, fuel and fresh air – it’s a win-win!
- Despise scraping snow off your car? Slippery streets make you nervous? Make the bus (or train) your new best friend.
- Going to the mall? Bring your own bags! They’re sturdy, and there’s no logo to give away what you just bought. Plus, they’re reusable so they won’t end up in the garbage, or worse yet, hanging on trees or clogging waterways.
- Sneak in sustainability. Have you been trying to convince a loved one to use a reusable water bottle or coffee cup? Give them a gift that keeps on giving! Check out options like bamboo cutlery, fun reusable food containers or tiny bags that open into sizeable ones.
- Get crafty. You don’t have to make your own gifts, but anyone can make their own wrapping paper! Reuse newspaper, magazines, or the wrapping paper from your office’s holiday party.
- Think long-term. It can be tempting to buy cheap tchotchkes and gag gifts. But will they end up in the landfill after a good laugh?
We love the outdoors, but we’ll be the first to admit that one of the best parts of winter is staying inside with a warm mug of cocoa. Even from the comfort of your sofa, you can take steps to be a good steward:
- Be lazy. If you still have leaves on your lawn, keep them there! They provide warmth and shelter for soil and critters, and eventually decompose to return necessary nutrients to your yard.
- When decorating for the holidays, opt for LED lights to reduce your energy use and skip the artificial Christmas trees. These plastic trees can’t be recycled and often come from overseas, while a locally-grown tree can be turned into mulch afterwards. (One study found that you’d have to use your fake tree for 20 years to make it the more eco-friendly option!)
- Make an eco-friendly feast by combining your cooking as much as possible; recycling your cooking oil into biofuel at a local facility; and opening the oven to heat your house afterwards.
- Don’t be salty. Opt for sand instead, as rock salt and urea-based de-icers result in harmful runoff to habitats and waterways.
- Give your thermostat a break. Use weatherstrips to seal gaps and stop drafts.
- Get in the giving spirit! Considering stewardship organizations like VOC in your year-end giving is a great way to support stewardship of your favorite places, even if the off-season.
- Make a different New Year’s Resolution. Think about what would be meaningful to you as an environmental steward and make a commitment for the New Year. Ideas include – Meatless Mondays, ditching straws, riding a bike or carpooling to work once a week, getting a home energy audit and following through on the recommendations, or starting a "Green Team" at work!
And finally, remember that stewardship is supposed to be fun – and accessible. Not all of us have the space for solar panels, access to public transit, or the funds for an electric car. But you don’t need to do it all to be a good steward – just do what you can. Our beautiful outdoors, wildlife and natural resources will thank you!
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